Posted by Michael Fong
March 4, 2009
Kate Chopin, "The Storm"
"As for Clarice, she was charmed upon receiving her husband's letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while. So the storm passed and every one was happy." (Kate Chopin, "The Storm")
Bobinot and his son Bibi are stranded at a store due to the storm, and while they are staying there during the night, Calixta, the mother, engaged in a romantic, intimate relationship with a Alcee Laballiere. The above quote takes place after the storm, when Alcee wrote to his wife Clarisse at Biloxi, where she is staying with the babies. She expressed her comfort of foregoing their "intimate conjual life" for a while. The story ends with no apparent conflict between any character.
Marital issues and challenges all seem to be so "20th century", that it is interesting as well as refreshing to observe the same problems in marriages in 19th century literature. I think that the way "The Storm" was described in class was extremely accurate; it is indeed a prelude to "The Awakening". "So the storm passed and every one was happy." Yet why is every one happy? If Bobinot or Alcee had any idea what their wives did or thought about during their absence surely raging storms would be inevitable. This reminds me of two quotes: "Ignorance is bliss" and "Marriage is built upon lies". We often dismiss these as corny sayings but it carries a certain amount of truth in it. No matter for what intention, lies are said every day, and within a couple, when lies come out into the open things tend to get ugly. All the characters in "The Storm" seem unscathed by their actions. One may argue that there is no conflict in the story. But I personally think that the significance of the story are the implied conflicts between a husband and wife; the storms that pass over them.
I sometimes wonder whether such occasional deception between a couple is a sure indication of the failure of marriages, or rather, the failure of the system itself. It is pessimistic to think about it this way, but as the divorce rate nowadays is higher than ever, one cannot help but lose faith in marriage itself. Couples consent to a certain number of vows and promises before the altar when they tie the knot, and yet over half of the marriages end up in divorce. Chopin's "The Storm" describes the root of a majority of problems in marriages: deception and yielding to one's personal desires. Mark Twain might be right after all in Satan's discourse of man in Letters from the Earth.